Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

What Did the Founding Fathers Fear?

A President Falsely Charging ‘Treason.’

The Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

Article III; Section 3: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

Trump: “I think what the Democrats are doing with the Border is TREASONOUS. Their Open Border mindset is putting our Country at risk. Will not let this happen!”

Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic: “’As having an ‘open border mindset’ is not levying war against America nor giving aid and comfort to its enemies, Trump is guilty of levying a false accusation of unsurpassed gravity and additionally guilty of violating his oath to protect and defend Article III, which defines treason as ‘only’ those offenses.’”

I find it difficult to take Trump seriously although I should take him seriously, we all should do so, and we all should work our hardest to make him a private citizen again with the potential of him going to prison afterwards. If two women doing bribes to get their kids into name-brand schools can be charged, then why not Trump for his past frauds? Trump the master dealer maker of fraud and lies. It is not over.

Having Ms. Pelosi as the Speaker of the House was fortuitous for this nation. She knows how to deal with those who have the mindset of a child. Please note the mini-clap of hers after Trump gave his SOTU address to Congress.

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Trump Has Birth Nations Skipping Generations

Trump Has Birth Nations Skipping Generations

Starting around 2011 or so, Donald Trump began to get a lot of attention on the looney racist right in the US by becoming one of the leading advocates of birtherism, the claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya rather than Hawaii.  Of course, Obamam’s father was born in Kenya.

Now, curiously, Trump is at it again, although now involving his own family.  He has taken to claiming that his father was born in Germany.  His father’s father was born there apparently, with the name “Drumpf.”  But by all accounts I know of, Trump’s own father was born in The Bronx in New York City.  It seems he is playing a reverse form of birtherism here, although it may be an effort to assert a stronger connection to the erstwhile “Master Race” of the Nazi movement.

Of course, it may also be that this is simply part of a more general mental breakdown, given the rather large number of either blazingly false or just blazingly stupid things he has been coming out with in the last several weeks.

Barkley Rosser

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Does Cochrane Really Understand the Latest on Minimum Wages?

Does Cochrane Really Understand the Latest on Minimum Wages?

John Cochrane thinks we liberals who think higher minimum wages can do some good by offsetting monopsony power fail to grasp labor economics. He is citing some work by Jeffrey Clemens, Lisa B. Kahn, and Jonathan Meer. Alas his blog post screwed up the link to this interesting paper:

Compensation consists of a combination of cash and non-cash attributes, and depends on worker productivity. We also allow for the possibility of a bargaining wedge whereby the firm pays less in total compensation (cash and non-cash benefits) than a worker’s marginal product. When the minimum wage rises above the prevailing wage (cash payment) but below a worker’s marginal product, the firm will shift the mix of compensation towards cash and away from non-cash benefits, but will still find it worthwhile to employ the worker. This distortion can create losses to worker welfare which, if large enough, will push workers to prefer their outside option of nonwork. We also show that, in the presence of a bargaining wedge, the welfare effects of minimum wage increases are non-monotonic. In general, wage gains associated with increases in worker bargaining power will tend to improve welfare, while wage gains that are accommodated through reductions in non-cash benefits can reduce welfare.

In many ways, this dates to a 1980 paper by Walter Wessels (“The effect of minimum wages in the presence of fringe benefits: An expanded model,” Economic Inquiry), which the authors cite. Wessels assumed a perfectly competitive model where government interference lowered worker total compensation. Wessels published later papers, which alas the authors did not cite. In 1994, the Journal of Labor Research presented an extension of Wessels thinking that incorporated monopsony power entitled “Minimum wages and the wessels effect in a monopsony model” by J. Harold McClure:

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There He Goes Again

On my personal blog, I mentioned that Tom Nichols is absolutely unwilling to discuss the run up to the US/UK?Australian invasion of Iraq. He is careless about facts and expresses contempt for even considering the official conclusions drawn by Hans Blix. He will not face evidence and has total contempt for expertise.

He asked me to stop replying to him and I did, but I have proof that he is wrong.

The man can’t handle facts and he refuses to listen to actual experts on the topics on which he makes assertions based on prejudice, stubborness and tribal loyalty.

Now I am here to mentoin that he’s done it again.

He has a little twitter exchange with Mike Gravel in which he demonstrates, again, his contempt for data and experts.

Nice come back. At a level with “There you go again”*. But stupid. First the rate of opioid overdose deaths is vastly higher now than in 1980. The drug problem of the 1960s was minor compared to the current crisis. By 1980 the heroin epidemic had passed. It’s true that there was a crack epidemic during the Reagan administration. But the big drug in 1980 was marijuana which is no longer a problem, because our generation (the pot heads of the 70s) are making the laws and know it was never a big problem.

But Nichols really demonstrates his contempt for data and expertise by asserting that “poverty” and “1980” go together. There is a technical literature on poverty. The first statistic is the official poverty rate. That rate was low in 1980 and shot up as soon as Reagan was elected (I am not asserting causation — it had more to do with Volcker). Nichols has a vague sense that the country was in bad shape in 1980 then Reagan saved it. He can’t be bothered to look up the relevant official statistics before tweeting. He places his prejudice and conservative tribal loyalty above the calculations of subject matter experts, because he has no respect for expertise.

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Unreading Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance”

William S. Lind’s cultural Marxism conspiracy theory boils down to the claim that in his essay, “Repressive Tolerance,” Herbert Marcuse “called for tolerance for all ideas and viewpoints coming from the left and intolerance of all ideas and viewpoints coming from the right” and that college administrators and professors have put Marcuse’s proposal into practice in the form of “Political Correctness.”

Marcuse did indeed make a statement that seemed to propose exactly that: “Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left.” The problem with taking the proposition literally, however, is that on the very first page of his essay, Marcuse had already dismissed it with the awareness that,”no power, no authority, no government exists which would translate liberating tolerance into practice.” The proposition, he added, was intended “to open the mental space in which this society can be recognized as what it is and does.”

Approximately 6,000 words of dense verbiage intervene between Marcuse’s discounting of the proposition and his restating it in stark, attention-getting terms. The casual reader could be forgiven for having forgotten the initial disclaimer along the way. What is implausible, though, is that college administrators and professors would have collectively adopted the formula as gospel while expressly ignoring the caveats. In fact, in a 1968 postscript to his 1965 essay, Marcuse indicated that his proposition had encountered “virulent denunciations” which he attempted to counter with a restatement of its rationale and acknowledgement that the practice he called liberating tolerance “already presupposes the radical goal which it seeks to achieve.”

Marcuse’s postscript apologia is hardly more convincing than his original essay. The problem, in my view, is that Marcuse attempted to illustrate a terminological paradox with a “counter-paradox.” His diagnosis — that “tolerance” in an administrated state rife with propaganda is not all it is cracked up to be — was apt. But he clumsily succumbed to the temptation to offer a prescription. And since he realized that there is no pat solution, he offered a pseudo-cure instead, in the form of a facile “thought experiment.”

It may well be that the crude, simplistic slogan of “intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left” would have appealed to student radicals in the 1960s, in which case, Marcuse’s popularity would have been due more to incomprehension than to affirmation. But among his peers, even in the Frankfurt School, there was no such luck. Correspondence between Marcuse and Theodor Adorno from 1969 show Marcuse’s defensiveness in response to Adorno’s tense disapproval of his “undialectical” activist sympathies:

You know me well enough to know that I reject the unmediated translation of theory into praxis just as emphatically as you do. But…

Like you, I believe it is irresponsible to sit at one’s writing desk advocating activities to people who are fully prepared to let their heads be bashed in for the cause. But…

Meanwhile, Max Horkheimer “too has joined the chorus of my attackers” while Habermas was publicly warning against “left fascism.” By the early 1970s, Marcuse’s brief moment of notoriety was rapidly fading.

Marcuse’s paradoxical fable of “liberating tolerance” (and intolerance) was not even the most pernicious part of his “Repressive Tolerance” essay. The same social conditions that make “tolerance” abstract and spurious, Marcuse argued, also “render the critique of such tolerance abstract and academic, and the proposition that the balance between tolerance toward the Right and toward the Left would have to be radically redressed in order to restore the liberating function of tolerance becomes only an unrealistic speculation.” So, there you have it, folks! Herbie has been giving you the jive and now he’s telling you it’s all jive. What, oh what… is to be done?

Indeed, such a redressing seems to be tantamount to the establishment of a “right of resistance” to the point of subversion. There is not, there cannot be any such right for any group or individual against a constitutional government sustained by a majority of the population. But I believe that there is a “natural right” of resistance for oppressed and overpowered minorities to use extralegal means if the legal ones have proved to be inadequate.

Andreas Baader invoked this “natural right of resistance” at his 1968 trial for arson, with the outcome that he was sentenced to three years imprisonment for political vandalism that caused no injuries and relatively modest property damage. So much for Marcuse’s objection to sitting “at one’s writing desk advocating activities to people who are fully prepared to let their heads be bashed in for the cause.”

Closely reading Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance” essay gives me a new insight into what Lind is doing with his cultural Marxism hoax. Lind has appropriated Marcuse’s theme of there being a regime of repressive tolerance but has inverted its origin and attributed it to Marcuse’s “liberating tolerance.” Marcuse’s “mental space,” “unrealistic speculation” or petitio principii that “already presupposes the radical goal which it seeks to achieve” is recycled by Lind as the actual persecution endured by conservative students under the imagined regime of “cultural Marxism.”

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Copycat Crime and the Conscience of a “Cultural Conservative” part two

…it would be absurd to subscribe to the author the unintended consequences of an author’s statements without considering the circumstances which surround them. It is, however, equally absurd to pretend that the ideological history of a work’s consequences are entirely extrinsic. — Jürgen Habermas

With all its limitations and distortions, democratic tolerance is under all circumstances more humane than an institutionalized intolerance which sacrifices the rights and liberties of the living generations for the sake of future generations. — Herbert Marcuse

As we saw from his March 17 webcast, William Lind was not inclined to consider taking any responsibility whatsoever for the (presumably) unintended consequences of his rhetoric. This is not to say, however, that he isn’t eager to take credit for political influence his ideas may on powerful state actors.

In his March 24 webcast, Lind revealed the “scoop” that his initiative may have inspired President Trump’s executive order to protect conservative speech on university campuses. “We have,” Lind boasted, “what I think is the inside story on one of last week’s news events — mainly the President Trump’s announcement that 35 billion dollars worth of federal funding for higher education is going to be tied to freedom of thought and expression on college and university campuses.” According to Lind, what happened is that, as a board member of a conservative group of Dartmouth University alumni, he wrote a memo — subsequently forwarded to the White House by a well connected board member — that recommended substantially the steps taken by Trump in his executive order.

This, by the way, is a basic rule of politics. If you’re going bottom-up you come in as a supplicant. You’re either ignored or kicked in the teeth. The way you get something to happen politically is to come in top-down. You come on… you come down on the center you’re targeting from a higher political level. Well there’s no higher level obviously than the White House.

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Thinking About Generations

Thinking About Generations

Three weeks ago my wife and our daughter and I were in Moscow to celebrate her mother’s 90th birthday (which was on March 10).  Somehow when I woke up today it occurred to me that a man born on the same day could have joined the Soviet army and participated in the final push into Berlin for the defeat of Hitler.  Likewise in the US a man born on the day could probably have gotten into the US military and participated in the final actions in Europe or the Pacific of the war. But probably few born much after then could have had that experience. So, whatever the sociologists or demographers say, this was the tail end of the “Greatest Generation,” with Americans born then having some experience as young people of the tail end of the Great Depression as well as of WW II, the signature events of that generation.

Next came the Silent Generation, whose front end includes the veterans of the Korean War, now in their mid-80s, more or less.  In contrast with the Greatest and their unabashed victory, the Korean War was ulitmately a stalemate, and its veterans have long complained with some reason of not getting much attention, even as as many died during it roughly as the later and longer Vietnam War. But then maybe that is because the Silents just did not make enough noise.

Which brings us to the Boomers, who got Vietnam, at least the front end of the generation.  And this one was a loss after it became very unpopular and tore the nation apart.  For the record, I got out of it through having a high draft number, 346, not through  having my father pay a doctor to make up phony bone spurs for me as someone else did, someone who had the nerve to say he did not respect John McCain for getting captured during the war.

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No, the Meuller report ***DID NOT*** “find no collusion!”

No, the Meuller report ***DID NOT*** “find no collusion!”

This past week I nearly became apoplectic about he malfeasance of much of the press and the punditry reporting of Barr’s 6 paragraph substantive “summary” (3 paragraphs each as to “collusion” and “obstruction of justice”) of Mueller’s roughly 300 page report.

As an initial matter, because Mueller’s grand jury is continuing to meet, and there are still subpoenas and witnesses outstanding, it is incorrect to say that “the investigation” has concluded. clearly “the investigation” is ongoing. What *has* concluded is Mueller’s involvement as special counsel, now that an Attorney General has taken over who did not have to recuse himself. Keep that basic point in mind.

But that’s not what got me livid. Much has already been covered by others. But it is one important, even fundamental, aspect of Barr’s executive summary on which I wanted to focus.

Start with the fact that Barr is a very good attorney. He is going to choose his words, and what he cites and what he omits with great care. Now, this is the *totality* of the language from the actual Mueller report that Barr quotes as to collusion:

“[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Barr repeats this formulation virtually verbatim twice more in his letter. Here’s the second time:

Stop right there. Let me just slightly reword Barr’s money quote:

“[T]he investigation established that members of the Trump Campaigndid not conspire or coordinate with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

All I did was change the phraseology (in italics) slightly. But the meaning is much more definite and sharper. In my formulation above:

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Nazi executioner judge: “Political correctness is worse than Nazi tyranny.”

The terrorist mass murder in Christchurch, New Zealand two weeks ago has sent me back to my archives to retrieve my documentation of Anders Breivik’s extensive plagiarism of the writings of William S. Lind, et al.

Did I say “extensive” plagiarism? Breivik copied and pasted the whole 19,000 word pamphlet, making minor revisions here and there and deleting around 4,000 words that dealt with more arcane academic topics, such as Derridean deconstruction. Below is an example of the markup comparison of documents from Lind’s to Breivik’s, with insertions in blue and deletions in red:

At the end of Lind’s tract, he included a bibliographical essay “…as a guide for interested citizsens who want to learn more about the ideology that is taking over Western Europe and America.” One of the entries in that bibliography was The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories and Political Significance by Rolf Wiggershaus. Lind quoted a passage from the book’s “Afterword”

Since the publication in 1970 of his book The Poverty of Critical Theory, Rohrmoser has promulgated, in constantly varying forms, the view that Marcuse, Adorno and Horkheimer were the terrorists’ intellectual foster-parents, who were using cultural revolution to destroy the traditions of the Christian West. Academics such as Ernst Topitsch and Kurt Sontheimer, who saw themselves as educators and liberal democrats, followed in Rohrmoser’s footsteps. In 1972 Topitsch, a critical rationalist who was Professor of Philosophy in Graz, had stated that behind the slogans of ‘rational discussion’ and ‘dialogue free of domination’ there was being established at the universities ‘a distinct terrorism of political convictions such as has never existed before, even under Nazi tyranny’

What struck me as odd about the above passage was that “Rohrmoser” had no first name. At first, I suspected the passage was simply cut and pasted in without acknowledging that it was a quoted text. But the absence of quotation marks may have been simply an artifact of indent formatting lost during conversion to a web document. I was curious to find out Rohrmoser’s first name, which appeared in the sentence before the passage quoted by Lind:

Günther Rohrmoser was a social philosopher employed by [Hans] Filbinger, who, as a judge at a naval court martial during the last days of the Second World War, had pronounced a scandalous death sentence which he defended during the 1970s by saying that what was the law then could not be injustice today.

Hans Karl Filbinger was Minister President of Baden-Württemberg from 1966 to 1978. In October of 1977, in response to the kidnapping and murder of Hanns Martin Schleyer by the Red Army Faction, Filbinger gave a speech in which he blamed the teachings of the Frankfurt School for the terrorism. Such accusations, elaborated by academics such as Rohrmoser, Topitsch, Sontheimer and others became the basis for efforts to suppress student activism and the teaching of Critical Theory.

In 1978, Filbinger was accused of having presided — either as prosecutor or judge — over the executions of several sailors at the conclusion of the Second World War. The Wikipedia article outlines extenuating circumstances in his favor: several of the death sentences were in absentia and never carried out, others were commuted to prison sentences and in the one case that resulted in an execution he appears, according to the Wikipedia article,  to have been “filling in” for a prosecutor who had already asked for the death sentence. In In Pursuit of German Memory: History, Television, and Politics After Auschwitz, Wulf Kansteiner offered the following account of the outcome of the scandal:

With proper symbolic guilt management, none of these facts would have ended Filbinger’s career, but he committed two major public relations mistakes that made his resignation inevitable. First, Filbinger failed to reveal the full record of his service as a military jurist; the press found a total of four death sentences that listed Filbinger as an officer of the court and that he professed to have forgotten. Second, although Filbinger explained and defended his actions at length, he never apologized to his colleagues, his voters, or the relatives of the soldiers he had condemned to death. He failed to realize that legal innocence no longer amounted to historical innocence. Just because he had not committed any crimes in the eyes of the law did not mean that he could survive in the court of public opinion.

So it wasn’t the crimes Hans Filbinger committed — or didn’t commit — but the cover-up that disgraced him. Lind’s omission of the context for Wiggershaus’s discussion of Rohrmoser’s attacks on Critical Theory as the “foster parents of terrorism” deprives his readers of two crucial perspectives. The more sensational but ultimately trivial insight was the status of one of the accusers of the Frankfurt School as an actual Nazi who presided over at least one execution and subsequently tried to conceal his past.

But the more important aspect was the precedent in West Germany of the 1970s of a political campaign against Critical Theory orchestrated by high government officials. In addition to Filbinger, Franz Josef Strauss, leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, and Alfred Dregger chairman of the Christian Democratic Union in the state of Hesse “promptly labeled the Frankfurt School a cause of terrorism.”

Jürgen Habermas gave a contemporaneous account of this assault on the Frankfurt School in an article that first appeared in Der Spiegel in October 1977 and was subsequently translated and published in the New German Critique. It is worthwhile to quote at some length from that article because illuminates an historical parallel that few Americans would be at all aware of:

As an undergraduate I was struck by the fact that such influential figures of the post-war generation, eminent men like Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, had made politically astonishing statements and had advocated unfortunate doctrines. The first, as chancellor of the University of Freiburg, had welcomed the Nazis’ seizure of power and exalted its significance metaphysically, while second had theoretically vindicated that state which Hitler created. After the war, neither of them considered an unequivocal political explanation or a public revision of their actions to be necessary.

These shocking examples – and they are, after all, just examples – sharpened my, sharpened our awareness of the consequences of the theoretical matters which we teach and write. They are not simply arguments which are absorbed by the scholarly process and then survive or dissolve within it. On the contrary, as published and spoken words, they have an effect on readers and listeners at the moment of their reception which the author cannot revoke or withdraw as if he or she were dealing with logical propositions. Now of course it would be absurd to subscribe to the author the unintended consequences of an author’s statements without considering the circumstances which surround them. It is, however, equally absurd to pretend that the ideological history of a work’s consequences are entirely extrinsic. There is only one pragmatic escape from this dilemma, and unfortunately it is not easily put into practice. An author’s awareness of this dilemma must sufficiently limit his teaching and writing: an individual should not succumb to the atmosphere of objective irresponsibility, nor should an individual expand moral accountability to such an extent that he or she is paralyzed by the fear of uncertain and unexplored areas. Then only silence would remain.

It is obvious that Strauss and Dregger want to intimidate us so that we shall seek refuge in this last alternative. Both obscure the fact that in the 1960s it was the left-wing professors who were especially and distinctly conscious of intellectual causalities. Instead Strauss and Dregger construct a scenario of objective responsibility in a manner which until now has only met with approval in the dominions of Stalinist bureaucrats.

Does William Lind take responsibility for the (presumably) unintended consequences of what he has written, given the dilemma framed above by Habermas? Lind does a weekly YouTube broadcast called traditionalRIGHT in which he gives his opinions on items in the news. On March 17, he discussed the mass murders in Christchurch. On March 24, he addressed an executive order signed by Donald Trump that would cut off federal funding from universities that inhibited the “free speech” of conservatives. I have listened to these segments several times and downloaded transcripts that I have read closely. I will present my summary and interpretation of them in a subsequent post.

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Looking for Mister Good Barr

Looking for Mister Good Barr

I confess. I posted The Barr Letter and Useful Idiots of the Jaded Left to troll for tin-foil hats. I am agnostic on the Mueller investigation. I have never viewed Mueller, Comey or Rachel Maddow as the savior of truth, justice and the American Way. My objection to Taibbi, Greenwald et al.’s gloating is primarily against their premature ejaculation — although their glee is also reprehensible under the circumstances.

But here is the thing about tin-foil hat thinking: if you are going to engage in it, do it right. Let’s say there is this vast establishment, deep state conspiracy to overthrow the popular will electoral college result of the 2016 election. Hey, I can get down with that! What makes the Glenns and the Matts and the Halaszes and likbezes so confident that William Barr isn’t part of that conspiracy? Absolutely nothing. They simply haven’t thought through their heist.

Here’s how I would NAIL Donald Trump if I was William Barr: I would write a four-page letter that appears to exonerate him from conspiracy or coordination and in which I explicitly decline to indict on obstruction of justice charges. See what I did there? No?

I sidestepped the “can’t indict a sitting President” rule. That sets a precedent. Now we let that settle in for a while. Nobody objects — least of all the President of the United States who thinks he has just been cleared. Next comes the indictment from SDNY. But wait a minute! You can’t indict a sitting President! Oh yeah? The Attorney General just waived that rule.

Is my little scenario true? I doubt it. But it is no less plausible than the half-baked conspiracy scenarios heralded by the half-cocked tin-foil hat crew. Of course the paranoid style is not noted for  consistency or for thinking things through.

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